Staying up late or even all night can be fun — sometimes. You’re at a party that goes long and nobody wants to leave. Or you have a new baby in your house. Or you’re binge-watching Netflix. Or you just can’t stop working on a craft project.
Occasional all-nighters are a fact of life, but sleep deprivation can be harmful, especially during emergencies. Frequent all-nighters (or insomnia) can bring serious, long-term health consequences, even for teenagers.
The body “recharges its batteries” during sleep. Long-term sleep deprivation can promote and accelerate cognitive conditions like Alzheimer’s. If you’re getting less than six hours of sleep per night, your brain cannot detoxify the buildup of harmful proteins (called amyloid-beta) so your liver can flush them out. Over time, the buildup of these proteins can cause deterioration of the brain’s mental faculties, bringing on Alzheimer’s, and increasing the risk for dementia.
Sleep deprivation also can cause a number of physical and psychological problems. In the short term, you may be cranky, snapping at people and having abnormally highly emotional reactions. This can cause problems with family members as well as coworkers. You’ll look tired. Your judgment and self-control will suffer. Long-term sleep deprivation can bring on anxiety and depression.
The reaction time of a sleep-deprived person can be equal to a drunk person, without alcohol. The risk of a car accident or other devastating event increases. It’s not just you that becomes groggy; your cells will, too. You also might gain weight.
You may have an occasional deadline-sensitive project. Working when you start getting tired means you’ll be less productive.
If you’re having trouble sleeping, it’s time get your body back in order so that it can sleep at least 8 hours again.
Try some of these tips:
- Have a regular bedtime and wake-up time. This will keep your circadian rhythm working like it should.
- Get regular exposure to natural sunlight during the day. If you work in an office, factory or other enclosed place, then take a walk outside at lunchtime or during a break.
- Keep your bedroom completely dark, or as close to dark as you can. Even light from a digital alarm clock can activate your pineal gland and make it think it’s daylight, thus disrupting sleep. Turn the clock’s face away from you and turn off any other lights.
- Practice regular rituals, like reading, that tell your body that it’s sleep time.
- Limit/eliminate the use of electronic devices an hour before bed. If you must use your smartphone or tablet, then use the setting that gives you a “night mode.” This will change the screen from the disrupting “blue light” to a warmer light. Additional apps are also available that go beyond the built-in functions.
- Take a warm bath/shower an hour or two before bed. This drops your core body temperature when you finish, signaling the body to start going to sleep.
- If you get up during the night, don’t turn on a light or check the clock. Using a low-wattage yellow, orange or red bulb in night lights prevents the disruption melatonin production (like white or blue light will).
With a few changes to your nightly routine, you’ll be sleeping like a baby again. Your body – and your brain – will thank you.
What are your tricks for getting a good night’s sleep? Share your suggestions in the section below: